Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek started a wave of science fiction that spread far and wide. It is hard to underestimate the impact this show had on our planet. Only two popular science fiction franchises predate this show, Dr. Who and the Twilight Zone, everything else owes much to this “wagon train to the stars” as Roddenberry described the show in his original pitch to television executives. This 3 season show lead to 9 television series and 13 feature films. Here are the top ten episodes of this groundbreaking series.
10. Let That Be Your Last Battlefield
This allegory for racism is heavy-handed in this episode. The Enterprise finds a stolen shuttlecraft that is piloted by an alien unknown to the Federation. This alien named Lokai is night black on one side of his body, and snow-white on the other side. He is being pursued for the last 50,000 years by another member of his species, Bele, whose coloring is inverted. These two are the last members of their species and are dedicated to destroying each other.
9. A Taste of Armageddon
In the specter of the cold war, this episode dealt with two worlds locked in battle, who have resorted to sanitize their war through simulation with real-world casualties. Federation Ambassador Robert Fox is traveling with the Enterprise to Eminiar VII who is locked in battle with Vendikar. Upon arrival, the Enterprise is “destroyed” in a simulated attack, and the denizens of the planet expect the crew to voluntarily euthanize themselves.
8. The Doomsday Machine
A rouge planet killer from another galaxy is found by Enterprise, it has already taken out the crew of the USS Constellation, and it is now heading to the densely populated Rigel system. This Doomsday Machine is an allegory to the specter of nuclear weapons that dominated the psyche of the post-war world.
7. Amok Time
This episode expanded more of the lore of the Vulcans, as introduces the pon farr, the Vulcan biological mating urge. Commander Spock must be taken back to Vulcan to marry his betrothed. Once at Vulcan, things become more complicated as he and Captain Kirk must fight for her hand.
6. Mirror, Mirror
A transporter accident sends Captain Kirk to an alternate universe where the Humans are much more fascist and have forged a Terran Empire. This is the first time the notion of the mirror universe is introduced to the franchise. It also started the meme of the evil version of anything having a goatee, as Commander Spock in the mirror universe sport a fetching one.
5. The Devil In The Dark
In a break from the normal humanoid aliens, this episode features an alien who looks like an animated pile of rocks. The Enterprise travels to a mining world that is being plagued by a creature that has been killing miners. Through judicious use of a mind-meld, the crew learns the motivations of this truly alien creature.
4. Space Seed
Ricardo Montalbán plays a genetically engineered warlord who ruled a quarter of the Earth from 1992 to 1996, Khan Noonien Singh left Earth with 83 of his followers in a sleeper ship. The Enterprise stumbles onto the ship in deep space with a cargo of frozen humans. The interaction of the crew with this madman set up the events that would be the second Star Trek movie and the terrible reboot film.
3. The Trouble With Tribbles
An iconic episode that was later revisited in a Deep Space 9 episode, the crew of the Enterprise visit Deep Space Station K-7. Enmeshed In a dispute between Klingons and Federation over Sherman’s Planet, the crew has to deal with an additional threat of a rapidly breeding small creature call Tribbles.
2. Balance of Terror
An unknown force is destroying Federation outposts along the Romulan Neutral Zone bring the Enterprise to the area. The first debut of Romulans shows them to be very similar to Vulcans, and the loyalist of Commander Spock is questioned in this episode dealing with racism. The submarine-like battle senses will be revisited in the battle scenes of the Waith of Khan.
1. The City On The Edge of Forever
An accidental overdose of a drug causes Doctor McCoy to flee to an alien world. One this planet stands the Guardian of Forever, a talking time portal, that McCoy escapes through. It turns out that for history to turn out as they know it, one woman must die so she cannot become the President of the United States which allows the Nazis to develop nuclear weapons.